Is There Life After the Death of a Partner or Spouse?
By Jamie Powers, MFT and ElderPride Ambassador
After my partner of almost 17 years died, I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t work, kept the curtains closed and isolated. I didn’t even see a life without her. We were soul mates.
When my friends asked what they could do, I told them I was okay only because I had absolutely no idea what they could do.
Even though I worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I could not help myself. I had “brain fog.” Depression was like a dark cloud enveloping my mind.
My hope is that by sharing some of my experiences this might help those in need. We can “move forward” rather than “move on.”
The following were essential to moving forward with my grief and depression:
Therapy helped me to see things that I could not otherwise see with the clouds that hovered above my “vision.” Therapy was a safe place to express my emotions and helped with coping skills.
My spirituality helped to show me light, where there had been none and to remember that I am a spiritual being.
Reconnecting with family and friends.
Doing something meaningful. For me this was volunteering at a hospital.
Other volunteering opportunities can also be found online.
Going on a day trip can be a good respite.
It has been a long journey, to even begin to move forward in my grieving process. However, I now have many loving, happy memories of our lives together, whereas before, I had only sadness and despair. She remains a large part of my life. I enjoy the memories we made together. Now life is not just tolerable, life is much more enjoyable.
Everyone experiences grief differently. Although one commonality often includes grief coming up unexpectedly. Often, the sadness comes in an ebb and flow much like a wave. When it’s at its worst, remember the intensity will subside.
Commonalities grief and depression share include:
Feelings of emptiness, guilt and despair, trouble sleeping and concentrating, loss of appetite and low energy may all be experienced by those with depression and those with grief.
wanting to commit suicide however in grieving, is associated with a desire to be with the beloved, not actually wanting to kill themselves.
People who are depressed also feel guilt and despair, have trouble sleeping and concentrating, differences in appetite and low energy. Although as opposed to grief, one who is depressed would likely experience the inability to anticipate happiness or pleasure, feeling worthlessness, pessimism and low self-esteem, and being self-critical. Also, with depression a person may have suicidal thoughts. These feelings are not typically tied to the loss of a close person.
How to find help:
If you are interested in finding a therapist, oftentimes, help locating a therapist can be found by calling either your insurance company or your county’s mental health department may be able to let you speak with a counselor who can give you resources in your community. Another possible resource can be the United Way.
If you feel suicidal, get help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or text the Crisis Text Line, to HELLO to 741741 or go to a hospital or call 911.
Other suggestions and resources include:
Mary Ellen Copeland, The Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which describes how to build a support system and identify stages of difficulties, among other valuable individual plans.
Support groups can be very helpful, particularly when you don’t know how to help yourself. There is anonymity in an online support group.
I recommend https://dailystrength.org.
Other online support groups include:
Wisdo (yes, this is spelled correctly) which has many different types of groups.
Support Groups Central, include a variety of groups. Examples are, COVID 19 and Chronic Illness.
I highly recommend watching this link to a short you tube video on grief and loss: https://www.youtu.be/khkjkr-ipfw The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a highly informative, supportive and stigma busting organization.
Often, doing simple things to take care of yourself such as soaking in a hot bath, eating a good meal and spending time with a pet are comforting and free. Asking a friend to call to check-in with you is helpful, particularly if you have trouble reaching out.
Jamie L. Powers, MFT and ElderPride a part of the ElderPride Leadership Collaborative. To contact her write us at